Defending champion Young Kim birdied 5 of her 1st 7 holes to jump out to an early lead in the Nichi-Iko Ladies, but finished bogey-double-par to open the door to a host of players. Leading the charge was Sakura Yokomine, who shot a bogey-free 65, and Maiko Wakabayashi, whose 31 on the back lifted her into a tie for the lead with the player who looks like she's peaking at just the right time for Team Japan in the LPGA's International Crown. Meanwhile, KLPGA transplant Yeon-Ju Jung fired her best round as a JLPGA member, a 7-birdie 66 that left her tied with 6-time winner Akane Iijima 1 shot behind the co-leaders. Ritsuko Ryu, 20-year-old Rie Tsuji, and 22-in-2-days Natsuka Hori all made it into the mid-60s, as well, shooting 67s with 1, 2, and 0 bogeys, respectively.
With many big-name players taking the week off to prepare for the Women's British Open, you have to look lower on the leader board to find the remaining well-known players: Teresa Lu shot a 70, Bo-Mee Lee a 71, Yumiko Yoshida a 72, and Yuko Mitsuka withdrew. That leaves former top players like Bo-Bae Song (70), Shinobu Moromizato (72), and Hyun-Ju Shin (72) amid a sea of players like Wakabayashi, who have shown glimpses of greatness but haven't sustained it: Na-Ri Lee, Miki Sakai, and Lala Anai at -3, Junko Omoto, Hiromi Mogi, and Kaori Ohe at -2, Na-Ri Kim, Mayu Hattori, and Yukari Baba at -1, Saiki Fujita and Erika Kikuchi at E, Esther Lee at +1, Rui Kitada, Ji-Woo Lee, and Kumiko Kaneda at +2, Yun-Jye Wei and Yuki Sakurai at +3, and Kaori Aoyama at +6.
So Yokomine has a great opportunity to make a big statement on the eve of the Women's British Open. Let's see how she does on the weekend!